Charlotte · Uncategorized

Restaurant Review: Halcyon in Uptown Charlotte

Halcyon has been on my wishlist forever, but sometimes parking in Uptown Charlotte is a hassle.  It definitely was yesterday afternoon, but we persisted.  We circled the restaurant maybe 7 times, each time finding a parking lot with a “Full” sign.  On our 8th trip we found a parallel spot a few blocks away and got in in only 2 tries 🙂  Nerve wracking!!

It was worth the concentration and anxiety.  Once we walked to where GPS said Halcyon was, we wandered around another 10 minutes trying to figure out where the heck it was.  We followed signs, we went down an alleyway….I eventually gave up and asked another patron walking around near the Levine Center where the heck it was.  Turns out, you go up this gigantic staircase into the MInt Museum (there is an elevator on the inside of the building!) and there the restaurant is in all its glory.

The restaurant is beautiful, as you’d expect. When we walked in, I was struck by all of the organic decorative touches.  The hostess station sits atop the most beautiful wood table I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t quit rubbing it.  I slipped around the hostess and snapped a quick picture of a long dining table waiting for patrons because it was so beautiful and simple.  The light fixtures look like a nest of twigs.  I was really wowed.

Look at that gorgeous table!

Huge windows overlooking Downtown Charlotte and check the light fixtures!

Love the organically shaped plates.

Despite the beauty inside, it couldn’t hold a candle to the beautiful fall weather we had yesterday, so we opted to sit on the patio.  Unlike many places, the outdoor furniture was comfortable and also lovely.  And the view!  Could not be beat.

View of Uptown Charlotte from Halcyon

The food was just as amazing as the view.  We scoured the menu and tried to order something different from each other so we could taste everything possible!  With so many delicious choices, that was easy.

Lunch Menu

First we ordered tea all around.  It comes unsweetened and they serve it with a simple syrup.  So, I was charmed the first time this happened to me, but now I despise this trend.  I can never use enough to even taste it.  Just give me some Sweet and Low and I’ll be happy.

My food, however, was without flaw.  I ordered the Local Catch of the Day which was pan seared Snapper.  They placed it atop a mix of summer veggies with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette on the bottom.  Seriously one of the best things I’ve eaten in a very long time.  The fish, though prepared simply, was so flavorful and flaky; cooked perfectly.  The skin was crispy and the inside was white and tender.  The veggies were sauteed lightly and the broccoli was charred so that was a perfect contrast of flavors.  Finally, that vinaigrette sauce: I wish I could come home with a cup full and slather it on everything.  It was tart and perfect when you dragged your fish or a vegetable through it.

Local Daily Catch with summer veggies, charred broccoli atop a puddle of roasted red pepper vinaigrette

My friend Paula got the Pork Belly BLT.  It was gorgeous!!  It’s this open-faced sandwich made on a brioche bun and stuffed with thick cut heirloom tomatoes, pimiento cheese, pork belly and drizzled with herb aioli. The fries are in a class of their own.  So crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside and seasoned to perfection.   Paula was very happy with it!

Pork Belly BLT with fries

My friend Jennifer got the Open Faced Lamb Sausage Pita, and she let me take a bite of the sausage!  It was just so spicy and tangy.  The pita had spinach, the sausage which looked to be spiced with a tomato confiture, topped with tzatziki sauce, herbed goat cheese and a beautifully fried egg.  Served with those amazing fries!  Superb.

Open Faced Lamb Sausage Pita

We were all so darn full from our delicious lunches, but we did decide to indulge in one small truffle 🙂  It was just a ball of ganache, rolled in cocoa powder and served with a few blueberries.  But it was oddly rich and perfect.  Just the little bite of sweetness we needed to end our perfect lunch.  Jennifer also got a latte which she said was great!

The perfect bite: Chocolate Truffle with blueberries

Latte

This restaurant is perfect for an al fresco dining experience with a beautiful view, or a date night when you want to impress someone.  Take a moment and look around the museum while you are there!

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Recipe

Hogwart’s Haute Cuisine

butterbeerharry

 

Ok, so I’m 49.  But I still dream of living amidst the wizards of Hogwart’s halls.  Is there anyone in America who has not been charmed by this movie?  For a fun Friday night, we catch repeats of the movies on the Family Channel and then make some treats that Harry would love.  Our favorite is the Butterbeer!  It is creamy and sweet and frothy…and not fat free.  But yummy for a treat once in a great while.

butterbeer

Butterbeer

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 4 (12 ounce) bottles cream soda, chilled

directions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar with 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F (115 degrees C) on a candy thermometer, stirring occasionally. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, bring to a gentle boil and turn off the heat after about a minute of cooking.
  2. Turn off the heat and add the butter, salt, vinegar, and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Stir until smooth. Cool mixture to room temperature before using.

  3. In a medium bowl, beat together the remaining cream (1/2 cup) with 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar syrup.

  4. In each glass, mix together 1/4 cup brown sugar syrup with 1/4 cup cream soda. Pour in the rest of the cream soda until it is nearly to the brim of the glass. Top with whipped cream.

  5. Serve immediately!

thStarsDivider

 

Here are some other Harry Potter treats from around the web that I’ve yet to try, but shall presently.

Harry’s Favorite Treacle Tart courtesy of The Traveler’s Lunchbox: Click here for Recipe

Treacle tart

Licorice Wands Courtesy of Pastry Affair:  Click here for the recipe.

Mrs. Weasley’s Rock Cakes courtesy of  the barest hint of sweetness   :  Click here for recipe

 

Lincolnton · Restaurants

South African Wine Dinner at Crafted Southern Speakeasy

Crafted Southern Speakeasy is not just a place to get hand-crafted cocktails and a bite to eat.  No, it is sooo much more than that.  They have events there that are really thoughtful and upscale!  I’ve been to tea parties, maker’s workshops where you make a seasonal craft, trivia nights, game nights and now I’ve been to a special 5-course dinner with wine pairings.  This was definitely a night to remember!

We were an intimate group of only 12 and the representatives for Babylonstoren were on hand to guide us through the pairing with each dish.  It was very informative and delicious!

The room was beautifully decorated.  I just walked around before the dinner really began and snapped pictures because I was so charmed by all of the little touches that were brought in to enhance our dinner.

Now, let’s get down to the reason we’re here: the food.  Oh wow.

Oyster with Shallot Mignonette & Orange Zest Paired along side Babylonstoren Chenin Blanc: Delicious subtle yet briny oyster perfectly matched with the tart mignonette.


Mixed Greens Salad paired along side Babylonstoren Chardonnay:  This salad was lightly dressed, but packed a big punch of flavor with the shaved Parmesan on top.

Lamb Lollipop over Cauliflower Mash alongside Sherried tomatoes with Fresh Grilled veggies paired with a Babylonstoren Babel Red Blend: This was my very favorite dish of the night! I didn’t even know lamb could taste like this!  Perfectly seared and seasoned. And what a revelation that cauliflower could taste this yummy!  Game changer!


Osso Bucco paired with the award-winning Babylonstoren Nebuchadnezzar red blend: I could tell this was cooked well, but I was unprepared for how much I was going to have to work for just a little bit of meat!  This was my first time trying oxtails, and it reminded me of pot roast with more fat and tendon.  The risotto, though.  That was the real deal.  Speckled with sauteed mushrooms, I could live off of that stuff.  The tender carrots, infused with that oxtail flavor were also winners.

Strawberry Basil Shortbread served alongside Babylonstoren Rose: This surprisingly delicate dessert was the perfect finish to the bold dishes we’d sampled.  The strawberries were plump and ripe and lightly macerated with sugar and the shortbread was dense enough to hold up to the sweet juices those berries gave off.  But my favorite component was this Chantilly cream that sat atop this dessert.  It was like eating a sweet cloud.  I still think about that cream.

What a wonderful night at Crafted Southern Speakeasy!  We will be back for many more!

Recipe

Desserts to Die for

Lord have mercy, but I have a sweet tooth.  I’m not much of a baker, but when I do, I make sure it has chocolate somewhere in it.  These desserts are some of my best creations 🙂

I have tried a LOT of Fudge Pies.  Some are too gooey.  Some are too dry.  This one is like Baby Bear’s porridge: just right.  I topped it with Cherry Garcia.

I found the original recipe at Southern Living.  Printer friendly version: Fudge Pie

Fudge Pie

INGREDIENTS

    • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
    • 0.5 (12 ounce) packages semisweet chocolate morsels
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • 1 (9 inch) frozen unbaked piecrust shell ice cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Microwave first 3 ingredients in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, whisking at 30-second intervals.
  2. Whisk sugar and flour into chocolate mixture. Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Stir in pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell.
  3. Bake at 375° for 35 to 40 minutes or until set. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve with ice cream.

APPLESAUCE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

    • 2 eggs
    • 3 cups sugar
    • 1 1/4 cups oil
    • 3 cups flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
    • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

DIRECTIONS

  1. Beat together eggs, sugar and oil. Fold in remaining ingredients.
  2. Spray bundt pan very well with nonstick spray and flour.
  3. Bake at 300°F for one hour, one hour fifteen minutes for a bundt pan.

Buttermilk Pie

Source: Mommy’s Kitchen

  • 1 – 9 inch pie crust 
  •   1/2 – cups sugar
  • 3 – tablespoons flour
  • 1 – cup well shaken buttermilk
  • 1 – tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 – tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 – large eggs room temperature 
  • 1/2 – cup unsalted butter ; melted and cooled to room temperature

Preheat the oven to 415 degrees. Place the pie crust in a deep dish pie pan and flute the edges.

If desired use store bought pie crust. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the sugar, flour, buttermilk, lemon juice, vanilla., eggs and melted butter.

Bake the pie crust for 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove the pie crust from the oven and pour the filling into the warm crust. Return the pie to the oven and bake until warmed, about 10 minutes.

Then without opening the door , reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until set, about 40 minutes. If the crust begin to brown to quickly add foil around the crust edges.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

servings: 6-8

 

Lincolnton · Uncategorized

Crafted Southern Speakeasy throws a Tea Party!

So, by now everyone knows that Crafted is THE place to go for the most delicious handcrafted cocktails and snacks.  But did you also know they do these marvelous events all of the time?  The last one I went to was a tea party.  And it was the coolest one I’ve ever been to.

Erika Thompson, owner of Crafted teamed up with Allison Gahrmann of the White Rose Manor in Lincolnton to put together this amazing event.

We bought our tickets online and when we arrived she ushered us all into the private party room which was decorated lovingly to be transformed into a Victorian tea room.  Allison brought her vast collection of delicate teacups made out of bone china for us to sip from.

Allison then gave us a demonstration about tea etiquette and history and even brought some hats that she’s helped to rescue and remake.  She asked these adorable little girls to model a couple of her favorites.  She then let us know that she and her daughter collaborated to blend some new tea flavors, some with a theme of Christmas and other with an Alice in Wonderland theme!  We all begged for an Alice in Wonderland themed Tea Party at Crafted next, so be on the watch for that!

The food was plentiful and delish!  We had every type of finger food you could imagine and then some!

 

A beautiful tablescape!

Bruschetta Bites

Cucumber Sandwiches

Peanut butter and jam sandwiches, Chicken salad sandwiches, Creme Brulee cookies and German Chocolate Cupcakes

Croissants with fresh jam

Parmesan Crisps

Jalapeno Pickled Quail Eggs

Anise Pizzelles

Scones with lemon curd

My plate!

Recipe

Shrimp Cakes

Tonight the kids went to dinner with their dad, so I took that opportunity to make myself something only I would eat (in this house): SHRIMP CAKES!

They were so good, and a different texture than crab cakes.  Next time I’m going to make them in tiny bite size nuggets for an appetizer.

SHRIMP CAKES

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb large shrimp, peel, deveined, chopped
  • 12 cups Ritz crackers, crushed
  • 12 cup Best Foods Mayonnaise
  • 14 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 14 cup red onion, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • FOR THE HOT MAYONNAISE
  • 12 cup Best Foods Mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 pinch black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  • Peel, devein, and finely chop shrimp, leaving a few chunks.
  • In a large bowl add crushed crackers, minced vegetables, all the spices, mayonnaise and mustard, mix well.
  • Fold in shrimp and panko bread crumbs.
  • Form into 4 patties or you could make appetizer size if desired.
  • Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a little butter in a skillet over medium heat, add patties in brown for about 4-5 minutes per side until nice and golden brown.
  • Patties can also be placed under the broiler and cooked for about 8 minutes per side.
  • Drain on paper napkin.
  • To prepare hot mayo, mix all ingredients together and serve on top of patties.